Who emerged from the Disney bubble as the NBA’s best entrepreneur, fisherman or wearer of vintage basketball merchandise? We present the Alternative NBA Bubble awards.
The NBA regular season awards have been handed out and, after a hard-fought Finals series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, the champions have been crowned.
But inside the bubble, the entertainment provided by the players away from the intense action on the court also deserves its due.
To that end, and with a huge helping hand from the @NBABubbleLife Twitter account, look no further than our NBA Alternative Bubble Awards.
Entrepreneur of the Bubble – Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat)
Three months inside the bubble saw players launch podcasts and video channels and the NBA bring in barbers and set up schools for kids, but nobody did a better job of using this time to set up a side-hustle than Jimmy Butler.
His ‘Big Face Coffee’ brand – merchandise is available online – became very popular and he took great pride in charging a flat rate $20 for small, medium and large cups, giving away no freebies nor allowing any IOUs.
It seems the Miami Heat’s athletic trainer Brandon Gilliam took advantage of the apparent gap in the market by setting up his own coffee business selling drinks for $5 under the name Little Face Coffee.
With each company targeting two different markets – one luxury, the other budget – perhaps both will survive.
Team-mates of the Bubble – Enes Kanter, Jaylen Brown, Tacko Fall (Boston Celtics)
Being locked in one place meant players on each team could not escape. Some imploded – see Houston Rockets – while others became closer.
One of the most heart-warming moments from the Bubble was seeing Boston Celtics duo Enes Kanter and Jaylen Brown teach Tacko Fall how to swim.
The 7ft 5in bench player never learned as a child, but he got the opportunity to do so in the safety of Orlando’s family-friendly pools – and he got by with a little help from his friends.
Vintage Merch of the Bubble – Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat)
Receiving his second Bubble award, Jimmy Butler showed off the best vintage merch by hunting down old high school and college jerseys of his team-mates and his coach.
He pulled out Tyler Herro’s Whitnall jersey for a training session and a few days later wore Erik Spoelstra’s Portland top in tribute to his coach.
Social Justice Award – Philadelphia 76ers
Throughout the NBA’s time in Florida, the fight for social justice and racial equality deeply impacted those inside the Bubble.
During press conferences players answered questions with Breonna Taylor’s name, many added social justice messages to their jerseys and the Milwaukee Bucks postponed a game.
These acts helped raise awareness but social media allowed us to get a sneak peak into how active players were in developing their own messages, including this great moment with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Fisherman of the Bubble – Paul George (LA Clippers)
Before games started, activities were limited and the only one that pretty much everyone got involved with was fishing.
We saw Ben Simmons throwing fish back – he attempted to toss it back in the lake but missed – and a number of people got involved. It reached a point where there was talk of Disney World having to restock the waterways.
One person made the most of it: Paul George.
The Clippers forward has been a keen fisherman for a long time and he laid down challenges and caught more than social media could keep up with.
Cutest kid-parent interactions of the Bubble – Phoenix Suns
Nobody likes to be away from their children, and the Bubble caused many players to spend a number of weeks away from their families. When the playoffs continued, some loved ones were welcomed to Disney after quarantining, and if you were not emotional seeing some of the reunions, you might be made of stone.
But the best moment was when the Phoenix Suns arranged for kids and family members to announce the team’s roster at the start of a seeding game.
Biggest WNBA Supporter of the Bubble – Grant Williams (Boston Celtics)
It’s not very often the NBA Finals and the WNBA Finals are taking place at the same time, but due to the former’s interrupted season, it meant that both leagues playing in Florida concurrently.
A number of NBA players threw their support behind their female colleagues by donning orange hoodies, but Grant Williams backed the WNBA more than most, wearing different players’ jerseys with regularity throughout the restart.
Most Surprising Bubble Starting Five – Denver Nuggets
When the NBA shut down in March, most players returned to the safety of their homes around the world, so getting them back in one place was a logistical challenge, especially as they had to quarantine, and some could not travel to Florida if they had caught coronavirus.
It made for some entertaining moments during the restart with limited players available, but perhaps none better was the huge starting line-up the Denver Nuggets ran out in their first warm-up scrimmage against the Washington Wizards.
Center Nikola Jokic (7ft) played point guard with Mason Plumlee (6ft 11in), rookie Bol Bol (7ft 2in), Paul Millsap (6ft 7in) and Jerami Grant (6ft 8in) filling out what was one of the tallest starting line-ups in NBA history,
Awkward Moment Award – Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets) and Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
One problem with 22 teams living together on the same campus was bumping into your rival between games.
One of the more entertaining match-ups of the playoffs was the scoring duel between Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell and the Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray, where their seven-game first-round series ultimately came down to a fumbled ball on the last possession.
But before Murray helped the beaten Mitchell up off the floor after the Nuggets advanced, the guards kept spotting each other around the site.